Background: Asbestos exposure has been definitively found to be associated with both mesothelioma and lung cancer. Nevertheless, in the overall population of oil refinery workers potentially exposed to asbestos, many studies clearly show a definitely increased risk of mesothelioma, but no proven excess of lung cancer after comparison to the general population. Through the presentation of new data and the re-appraisal of two recent and independent epidemiological studies conducted in Liguria, Italy, and Ontario, Canada, we attempt to shed light on this apparently paradoxical finding.
Methods: Lung cancer mortality was studied among maintenance workers exposed to asbestos, and among two other subgroups of refinery employees: blue collar and white collar workers. The comparison with blue collar workers was performed in order to take into account the role of healthy worker effect, smoking habit, and the socioeconomic level. The comparison with white collar workers was performed to control for other occupational lung carcinogens.
Results and conclusions: Results reveal a consistency between the two studies and show that 96-100% of the mesotheliomas and 42-49% of the lung tumors arising among maintenance workers were attributable to asbestos exposure. Our new analysis, estimating two cases of asbestos-related lung cancer for each case of mesothelioma, confirms published findings on the magnitude of asbestos-related tumors in oil refineries.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.